David Richard-US PRESSWIRE
The Eagles can't seem to find rock bottom. The 3-1 start gave way to a 5-game losing streak and now people are trying to figure out who is most at fault. Unfortunately, there isn't one person. This is a team failure.
One of my favorite movies is The Producers. It is the story of a man who scams little old ladies into backing a play designed to fail so that he can keep all the money. There is a scene in the movie when Gene Wilder starts reading over the list of the backers of the play.
"Mrs. Cathcart, 50 percent. Mrs. Resnick, 50 percent. Mrs. Biddlecomb, 50 percent. Mrs. Wentworth, 100 percent."
The list runs on and on since that is the key to the scam. As I watch fans and the media try to figure out who to blame for the 2012 Eagles, I can't help but think of that scene. Here is the unofficial breakdown based on my extensive research.
Andy Reid - 200 percent
Howie Roseman - 65 percent
Jeff Lurie - 30 percent
Juan Castillo - 50 percent
Marty Mornhinweg - 100 percent
Bobby April - 50 percent
Howard Mudd - 25 percent
Michael Vick - 75 percent
Demetress Bell - 50 percent
King Dunlap - 40 percent
Danny Watkins - 25 percent
Nnamdi Asomugha - 25 percent
Jason Babin - 25 percent
Nate Allen - 10 percent
Kurt Coleman - 10 percent
Donovan McNabb - 50 percent
I think that about covers it.
The truth is that one person isn't to blame for the mess that the 2012 Eagles have become. There are failures all over the place. Andy Reid is the head coach so he'll get most of the grief. That's fine. Football teams are all about the quarterback and head coach. Those guys know what the deal is. They get most of the glory so they have to take most of the heat when things go wrong.
I think the majority of the mistakes happened on the playing field. Think about some of the things we have seen this year:
* Michael Vick was terrible in the season opener. He repeatedly threw the ball into traffic or right at Cleveland Browns.
* Vick threw a bad red zone interception against the Ravens. There were fumbles by both LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown either in or around the red zone.
* The Arizona game featured all kinds of errors. Damaris Johnson fumbled a punt. Kurt Coleman bit on a play fake and gave up a touchdown. Vick failed to see Clay Harbor wide open in the end zone late in the half. A play later Vick was sacked and the ball run back for a score. Instead of being down 17-7 with a hint of momentum, the Eagles trailed 24-0 and seemed doomed.
* A dropped interception by Brandon Hughes gave the Giants a free field goal. A blown coverage gave the Giants an easy touchdown. McCoy made a bad read at the goal line and failed to get in the end zone. The Eagles still won the game, but had a chance to build a decent lead and failed to do so.
* Fumbles by Vick, including one right at the goal line, hurt the Eagles offense in Pittsburgh. Run defense was an issue and the Eagles blew their first late lead of the year, allowing the Steelers to drive down and kick the winning field goal.
* The Eagles blew a 10-point lead in the last five minutes to lose to Detroit. This game was a buffet of errors. Juan Castillo got away from a succesful gameplan in the fourth quarter and that helped the Lions offense come to life. Brandon Hughes made a couple of critical mistakes in coverage, giving up a long pass play and a touchdown. Brent Celek lost one touchdown due to a penalty and then dropped an easy touchdown pass on a different drive. Late in the game Vick had a chance to hit Jeremy Maclin for a big play, but threw the pass a bit flat and the Lions were able to bat it down. McCoy failed to stay inbounds on a late drive and that stopped the clock. There were some poor blocks by Todd Herremans in crunch time. Vick made poor decisions in overtime. He also had a chance for a long touchdown pass earlier in the game, but made a poor throw. It was a windy day. He didn't step into the throw and put a lot of force behind it. The ball got held up and was picked off.
* The Eagles had multiple chances to stop Atlanta's opening drive, but didn't and that ended in a touchdown. Jason Babin's third down penalty was the most frustrating play. Julio Jones caught a long touchdown because Nnamdi Asomugha failed to get a jam on him and also allowed him to release to the outside. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played his worst game of the season, making a few crucial mistakes that led to big plays or touchdowns. Vick made some poor reads and the offense struggled all day long.
* The Saints game was supposed to be the night the Eagles offense got on track. Didn't happen because the offensive line had a bad, bad night. They struggled with the blitz all game long. Vick didn't help matters. He failed to see obvious blitzers before the snap and then move away from them. There were some plays when he moved into a sack. The run defense was porous and missed tackles were all over the place. Trent Cole had a free run at Drew Brees early in the game on a third down and whiffed. Dennis Kelly failed to block anyone on a shovel pass and that cost the team a potential touchdown. Vick threw a highly questionable pass that was picked off inside the 5-yard line and run back for a touchdown. Brent Celek fumbled in the red zone late in the game. Bobby April comes up with a brilliant trick play on a kickoff return and it works. It delivers a touchdown, expect that Brandon Boykin threw the ball forward instead of laterally. What could have been a hugh momentum swing turned into a cruel sucker punch to the gut.
* Sunday's loss to Dallas should still be fresh in the minds of everyone. Fletcher Cox's missed sack of Tony Romo led to a big gain. Nick Foles threw a slant behind DeSean Jackson and that ended up in a pick-six. DRC bought a double-move by Dez Bryant and gave up a big pass play. Kelly failed to block a blitzing linebacker and that ruined what could have been a huge pass play to McCoy. It also was partially to blame for Vick's concussion. Asomugha had a terrible tackle attempt on a short touchdown pass to Felix Jones. Tackles Demetress Bell and King Dunlap each had awful games.
Figuring out why all the mistakes are happening is very tricky. Think about Cole's missed sack in the Saints game. Fans love to scream about Jim Washburn and the wide-nine. Plenty of people are down on Todd Bowles. Some wonder why Howie Roseman gave an extension to an older player already under contract. Can you blame Washburn, Bowles, or Roseman for that play? The star defensive end had a free run at the quarterback and whiffed. The alignment worked. The design of the blitz worked. Cole had the ability to get to where he was. He simply failed to make the play.
These types of mistakes have been happening all year long. That's why most of this is on the players to me. I see talented players on the field. I see systems that are functional, if not better.
I'm not absolving the coaches and here's why. Something isn't right with this team. There are too many guys underachieving. There are too many guys making mistakes. Any long time Eagles fan has seen years where the offense had to carry the team. Or the defense. We've seen years where special teams were a huge boost and other times when they hurt the team. This season all three phases of the game have a hand in the problems.
One of the popular theories is that Reid has lost the locker room. I do not believe that. The team continues to play hard. Effort isn't an issue. Players aren't ripping the coaches in the press. Back in 1992 Seth Joyner threatened mutiny a couple of times and did so publicly. There is nothing like that going on.
Besides, the problems have been happening all year. Did Reid lose the locker room in August? That doesn't make sense. I do think it is fair to question whether Reid ever had a good read on this team. Some teams need a pat on the butt. Others need a kick in the butt. Some need their confidence built up. Others need to be humbled. We have no idea what Reid says behind closed doors, but clearly it isn't working.
The team continues to play hard, but they also continue to play dumb and sloppy. Reid had a full offseason to work with them. He ran a tough, physical training camp. There was plenty of work on fundamentals. It isn't showing up on Sundays.
This is where it becomes fair to question Howie Roseman and the personnel department. Did they bring in the right kind of guys? The Eagles have made it a focus in recent years to get smart, coachable players so it doesn't make sense that they are struggling with fundamentals. If Roseman and his guys brought in players with bad track records and questionable character, you could write off 2012 as a chemistry experiment that failed. I guess you can still come to that same conclusion, but figuring out the reason why it didn't work is what's so difficult. There was a lot of logic to the way the 2012 Eagles were put together.
You can also question Roseman in terms of making the right moves talent-wise. I do think his group failed with the backup offensive linemen. Again, there was logic to adding Demetress Bell, Mike Gibson, Steve Vallos, and Dennis Kelly. Unfortunately, the first three moves failed. Kelly is a late round rookie that can't be fairly judged right now. He could be out of the league in two years or a solid starter. The fact that three veteran blockers were brought in and failed is troubling. The team has since added Matt Tennant and Jake Scott. We'll have to wait and see if they get on the field.
The 2012 Eagles are all about failure. Some of the failures happened in the offseason as the team was put together. Some happened in OTAs and training camp as the coaches and players were supposed to be squaring away fundamentals and technique. Some failures happen during the week as the coaches put together gameplans. Most of the failures happen on Sundays (or when the heck ever gameday is nowadays). The coaches have made some bonehead decisions. The players fail sometimes by not doing the basics and other times by not making plays.
There is no one person to blame. Reid, Roseman, the coordinators, the assistants, and the players all have a hand in the team's 3-6 start. What happens in the final seven weeks will determine the futures of quite a few people. Lurie put up with 2011's 8-8 record because he felt that was the right thing to do. He showed patience and gave the staff and players a chance to clean up their mess. I don't think this is what he had in mind. There will be a price to be paid for failure this time around.